Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (27 June) . . Page.. 2335 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
pay part of the costs, if a government is to meet the costs at all. However, the federal government has not yet been approached for any assurance regarding contribution to any future compensation payout.
I do not dispute that every employee in the ACT should be fully insured against injury or death occurring in the workplace, but there is more than one way to achieve that goal. I am not satisfied that this bill is as good as it could be. It was introduced too late to allow proper time for consideration or amendment to the detail of the bill.
ACT employers have now been without workers compensation insurance for acts of terrorism for six months, yet the government only presented this bill to the Assembly a few weeks before their six-month letter of comfort to insurers was due to expire.
Since the ACT government has chosen to adopt the legislative model used in the United Kingdom, it is not quite clear why it took them this long to draft a bill for the consideration of the Assembly. Had we had more time to think over this bill and less of a rushed imperative from the minister to have it passed this week, perhaps we could have identified and ironed out more of the problems.
Under these circumstances, I have decided to vote against this bill, although I expect, as the Liberals have indicated, it will pass despite my objections. It is disappointing that we are passing a law that the majority of the Assembly recognises to be unsatisfactory in some respects.
I repeat my call that I hope we will not see more instances of last-minute stopgap law-making from this government.
MS TUCKER (12.31): The Greens will be supporting this bill. One of the features of the ACT workers compensation scheme, based around the end of the last term, was that it expanded the net. It defines workers quite broadly, with the aim of ensuring coverage for as many people as possible. It is essentially a private scheme, so we are vulnerable to the vagaries of the insurance market.
After the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the United States last September, reinsurers have withdrawn their coverage in respect of acts of terrorism. Without reinsurance, insurance companies are not prepared to cover anything that might result in a major payout. On past evidence, terrorist acts are a small risk in the ACT, but there is, nonetheless, that potential.
The ACT Greens accept that it is incumbent on the ACT government to take responsibility on this issue. I understand that the Western Australian government has already set up a $25 million fund, and that other states with private workers compensation systems are thinking of going in the same direction. This bill is instead modelled on the United Kingdom system, where the creation of a fund to reinsure against acts of terrorism is triggered by such an act. The fund is guaranteed by the ACT government in the first two instances with costs reimbursed over time from the insurance businesses.